ALAMOSA — A packed Milagros Coffee House greeted one of the members of the equally packed gubernatorial race. Following a day in Durango, Democratic candidate Cary Kennedy spoke to the crowd about her plans for Colorado on Sunday.
Kennedy’s main three platform issues are education, healthcare and protecting Colorado by planning for the state’s increasing population, caring for the environment and tapping into renewable energy.
“We are an innovative and forward-looking state,” said Kennedy. “We have built one of the strongest economies in the country and I’m proud to be a part of the team that has helped laid the foundation for that success. I’m running for governor to continue the good work that we’re doing in our state, but also to make sure that our success and progress reaches everyone.”
As one of nine Democrats running for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s term-limited position, Kennedy said she had the necessary experience because she served as the state treasurer during the recession and was Denver’s former deputy mayor and chief financial officer.
“I’ve been responsible for managing your state tax money for the better part of the last decade,” Kennedy said.
Of the four other major candidates, all of whom have signed a pledge to run a clean campaign without attack ads, Kennedy said that congressman Jared Polis is her biggest competition.
“There are a lot of good people running for governor in the democratic primary. But I know what needs to get done in this state.”
Her first priority is to improve public education funding.
“It doesn’t make any sense that our economy ranks number one in the country and our investment in our schools and our public colleges and universities ranks at the bottom among states,” said Kennedy. “We’ve been cutting our investment in education for almost 30 years ever since the [Taxpayer Bill of Rights] amendment passed.”
She shared the story about how one of her foster sisters, Karen, joined her family and fell in love with music thanks to her new school. She earned a music scholarship and had a career in performance. Beforehand, she never played an instrument because the school in Karen’s old neighborhood didn’t have a music program.
“As I travel the state I ask myself, ‘How many kids around Colorado are just like my sister Karen?’ They just need the opportunity. “
Kennedy also believes that since she authored Amendment 23, which increased public school funding, and implemented the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant program, which has assisted multiple school districts across the San Luis Valley, she has the toolset to address the state’s education issues.
Dr. Thom Miller, a pediatrician at San Luis Valley Health and the newest school board member for the Alamosa School District, asked Kennedy exactly how she would improve funding. Kennedy responded by saying she wants to pass permanent TABOR reform that would aid both transportation infrastructure and public school.
“The first rule of holes is if you’re in one, stop digging. We’re still cutting. Without the state’s equalization support we will see all these districts going to four-day school weeks.
“TABOR and the Gallagher Amendment have hit rural Colorado the hardest. It is inequitable.”
Louisa Cheslock, a preschool teacher, asked how Kennedy would make early childhood education more accessible.
“We only have half the kids in the state today attending high-quality preschool and full-day kindergarten.” responded Kennedy. “That is shameful. Those are the fundamental years for children’s development and we need to make sure that profession is professionalized and paid as such so that we draw top talent into teaching. Those early years are critical.”
Kennedy’s second priority is to provide a public health insurance option through the state’s Medicaid program or private plans offered to state employees.
“We’re not going back to the days where a quarter of the population couldn’t get health insurance,” she said.
Her third and final priority is to protect Colorado from a forecasted influx of residents by preserving public lands, conserving water and reversing the effects of climate change.
“We can’t continue to pull water from the western water basins to supply a growing Front Range population,” said Kennedy. She also called the Valley a state and national model in water conservation and congratulated residents on their efforts.
Kennedy said climate change is the most pressing global issue today and told the crowd that as governor she would make sure Colorado followed the Paris Agreement and was met with cheers. “We are going to lead on building a clean renewable energy economy and it’s going to come right here through the San Luis Valley.”
Kennedy noted that her plans will be difficult given the current federal administration.
“We will not let Donald Trump and the republicans in congress take our state backwards. We will continue to lead and we will continue to be a model that the rest of the nation can look to...What happens in Washington, stays in Washington,” said Kennedy to the applauding audience.
Tonight, Cary Kennedy will be speaking at DC Oakes Brewhouse and Eatery in Fort Collins.